Choosing the right computer

By Faraz J Karamat

Most computer users don’t think much when it comes to an Operating System (OS) that runs on their computers, whether it’s a desktop or a notebook. For them all that matters are the few software applications that they use to achieve their purposes either for work or entertainment or both. The software application majority of computer users use (and sometimes have only used) is the web browser or the program used to browse the INTERNET. Tasks for which home computers are most used for are web browsing, email, chatting and audio / video communication. With increase in game console systems like Sony PS3 ®, Nintendo Wii ® and Microsoft Xbox ® to name a few, the computer’s role in gaming is quickly diminishing.

Tablet computers have further decreased computer’s utility for a casual user. Tablet computers not only offer instant on (without delay power on) but also allow users to achieve most of their objectives much more easily and quickly through a more “natural” touch graphical user interface (GUI). Due to the touch screen technology, especially the multi-touch capacitive screens, interaction with tablet computers is much more efficient and fun. This new screen technology coupled with powerful hardware (all the electronic parts inside the tablet which you cannot see), tablets have become not only powerful tools for professionals like architects, engineers, doctors etc. but have opened a new game market with highly interactive and immersive entertainment and infotainment experience.

All that said, a good old computer is still the much needed electronic “appliance” in your home or office simply because it is much more powerful than the portable computing devices and secondly all your mobile devices need a notebook or a desktop computer to function properly (this might not be true for all the mobile devices or mobile device users but chances are that you will need a computer to manage your mobile device once in a while). Notebooks and desktops are especially more convenient for people who spend long hours doing web browsing, hours and hours of chatting (requiring lots of typing) and of course for professionals who need really serious processing power to run their resource intensive applications that the mobile devices simply can’t handle.

So if you are going to have a full fledged computer in your house, what should it be?

Should it be:

a.) Desktop Computer

  1. Simple Desktop
  2. Touch Screen Desktop

b.) Notebook Computer

  1. Powerful full sized Notebook
  2. Medium sized Notebook
  3. Small Netbook / Ultrabook


If you decide to venture in to the desktop market you have to realize that you will have multiple peripherals scattered around your main CPU (computer box) like the monitor, keyboard, mouse, web camera, speakers (if your monitor does not have built-in speakers) etc. Also it is highly recommended that you invest in a good power backup system (UPS) for your computer as even a slightest flicker in electricity can reboot / restart your computer and you can end up losing all the data you were currently working on, not to forget such sudden reboots can also damage the hardware and storage devices. Also with a desktop you need space to put all this stuff in a neat and orderly manner and to do that you should have a proper desktop workstation table which is specifically designed to accommodate all desktop peripherals in a minimum space and provide proper ergonomics so that you do not injure your self while spending long hours on your computer.

Advantage of a desktop is that you can have really big screen (monitor), you get a full sized (wired or wireless) keyboard, a good comfortable mouse, you can attach powerful speakers, attach printer(s) and scanner directly to it, not dependent on the battery life as you are connected directly in to the power socket, you can leave it on forever and let it download stuff while you sleep, if configured properly no heating up issues and of course the biggest advantage is that if there is a hardware problem repair is a lot cheaper as individual components can be replaced and of course upgrading it is also a lot easier.

In the last few years we have also seen many compact desktop systems. These desktops have a completely different design with all their hardware components installed inside (behind) the screen. So what you see is a nice big screen which is slightly thicker than the regular flat panel computer monitor standing on an elegant stand. Such desktop systems have built-in camera, microphones, speakers and some models even have capacitive multi-touch screens. These systems are accompanied by wireless keyboards and mouse. At the back of the screen (sometimes at the bottom of the screen) there are connectivity options like USB ports, audio / video in-out ports etc. These systems are much more compact than regular desktops but are built more like notebooks so advantages of repair / upgrade as mentioned above are missing. Also some of these compact desktops have heating issues (when used for long durations with resource intensive applications) that can cause damage to the screen.


These days consumers have a lot of choice, actually too much choice! There are so many devices out there that an average non-technical computer user may experience a minor breakdown when in a computer shop. Long time ago, there were just two kinds of computers desktops and laptops and choice was easy depending on need and your budget.

Today notebooks come in screen sizes ranging from 7 inches to 19 inches and then there are so many screen display technologies (sometimes they are almost the same but have different names – marketing!), 3d or non-3d screens, then there is the choice of keyboards, with / with web camera, graphic card options, sound card options, what kind of trackpad (built-in mouse) do you want newer notebooks have an option of multi-touch trackpads that allow you iPad like functionality.

So how do you select the right notebook for your self?

Ask your self these questions:

  1. Will I be carrying my notebook with me often / all the time?
  • If yes then you need a light portable notebook
  • If no then you can go for large more powerful notebook
  1. Will I be watching lots of movies on my notebook?
  • If yes then you should go for large high quality screen & Blueray player
  • If no then an average small to medium screen will be good enough
  1. Will my notebook be my main gaming device?
  • If yes then you need medium to large size screen, a good graphics card with dedicated RAM, at least 3GB system RAM and a relatively fast processor
  • If no than a standard graphics card with shared RAM, average processor and 2-3GB system RAM will be good
  1. Do I like 3d action games or work on graphic intensive applications?
  • If yes then you need a high-end 3d enabled graphics card with dedicated at least 1GB RAM, a fast processor, 4GB or more system RAM and a high quality medium to large screen.
  • If no than a standard graphics card with shared RAM, average processor and 2-3GB system RAM will be good
  1. Will I replace my notebook within the next two years with a new one?
  • If yes than my advice is not to go far an extremely expensive notebook (but this depends on how you answer the next question)
  • If no then you should invest in a very good top of the line notebook that meets all your current and future requirements
  1. Do I have unlimited budget to buy a notebook?
  • If yes then go for the best as price is not an issue (try to get one “small and portable” and one “big and powerful”)
  • If no then consider all the above questions very carefully and buy something in a hurry.
  1. Does an operating system even matters to me?
  • If yes then your choice automatically get narrowed down to either Apple or Microsoft Windows based systems
  • If no then you have a lot of choice including the third OS called Linux (Ubuntu) which is really reliable and user friendly.

In the end no matter what computer you buy always remember that new technology will keep coming out almost on daily basis. What you buy today will be old tomorrow but that does not matter. What matters is whether the choice you made serves your purpose for a maximum number of years. Most of the new technology is marketing hype to force people to buy new stuff they do not necessarily need. Majority of the users don’t even use 50% of their existing computer’s full potential yet they feel that they need newer and more powerful devices. Enjoy what you choose and buy. Stay aware of new technologies but don’t get influenced by marketing hype. A good healthy computer can do most of the tasks as fast as any other more expensive and newer computer. Like your car and other machines in your home and office, computers also need maintenance. There are many useful utilities out there that keep your computer safe and in good working condition. Read up on these and if you don’t understand something always ask professionals for help. You can find great resources and communities of technical experts online who offer free help.